The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have activated linebacker Devin White from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It is a move that sets White up to return for the Bucs' Divisional Round playoff meeting with their NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints.

White missed the Buccaneers win over the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card round on Saturday having been placed on the list, used for players who have caught the virus or who have come into close contact with an infected person.

Defensive tackle Steve McLendon was also activated from the list on Monday.

It is the return of White, however, that is more likely to be key to the Tampa defense against a Saints team that swept the regular-season series with the Bucs.

A first-round pick in 2019, White is pivotal to the Buccaneers as a pass-rushing threat from the middle of the defense.

His nine regular-season sacks were second on the team behind Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5), who was one of only four Bucs defenders to have more pressures than White's 19.

The Buccaneers visit the Saints on Sunday, looking to progress to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2002 season, when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles en route to glory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said it was "inevitable" that he would meet Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady in the NFL playoffs.

It will be a clash of the titans when Brees and the Saints host Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on January 17.

The second-seeded Saints earned a showdown with the Buccaneers after easing past the Chicago Bears 21-9 in Sunday's Wild Card clash in New Orleans.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady – who swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers at the start of the season – and Brees are the top two passers in terms of yards and touchdowns in NFL history.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing TDs, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

"The minute that he signed with the Bucs and came to the division, you felt like that was going to be a team to contend with, that was going to be a team that would have playoff aspirations and beyond, just like us," Brees told reporters after being asked about the upcoming blockbuster.

"So, I guess it was inevitable."

Brees fuelled the Saints with two touchdowns against the Bears, finishing 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, no interceptions and no sacks.

The veteran – who is reportedly set to retire at the end of the season – also became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

The Saints allowed nine points and 239 total yards at home to Chicago – each the fewest allowed by New Orleans in a playoff game in team history, per NFL Research.

"Our defense played outstanding," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "We tackled well in space ... Ultimately we forced them to become one-dimensional, and when you do that you're going to win a lot of games."

Taylor Heinicke was not able to draw up a famous win for Washington on Saturday, but the quarterback studying for an engineering degree may have laid the foundations for his future in the NFL.

Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 46 yards and a further score, in a 31-23 playoff defeat for the NFC East champions to Tampa Bay.

Those stack up as impressive numbers for someone who was not even meant to be playing in the Wild Card game in the first place.

Alex Smith had steered Washington to the divisional title in Week 17, yet he failed to overcome a calf injury in time to start against the Buccaneers.

With their first-choice option ruled out, Washington turned to a 27-year-old they had only signed to their practice squad in early December, an undrafted quarterback who had spent time with four other teams in the league and who had previously thrown a grand total of 58 pass attempts in his NFL career.

The new addition did catch the eye when coming in to replace the underperforming Dwayne Haskins, Washington's first-round pick in 2019, in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Still, this was different. This was the playoffs. This was a game against Tom Brady. This was in primetime.

While there was no fairytale result for the underdog in the end, Heinicke emerged as the headline story from the opening day of the postseason.

His performance made him just the third quarterback to have at least 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a playoff debut, a feat previously achieved by Daunte Culpepper and Tim Tebow (who both won, by the way).

"I have nothing but respect for number four," Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said of his quarterback after the loss.

"The way he came in and handled his business on a moment's notice when we found out that Alex wasn't going to be able to go. He was just prepared for the moment. That's what this league is about, being prepared for your moment."

So, what's next for the new hero? Heinicke is set to become a free agent but made clear in the aftermath that he would like to be back with Washington. The franchise ended the Haskins experiment considerably early by releasing him last month and while Smith is still under contract, he will be 37 by the time the next regular season begins.

Head coach Ron Rivera - who described his quarterback's display as "gutsy" - would not be drawn over the team's plans for the future in the immediate aftermath.

"We'll see what happens. I was just very proud of what he did, coming out and competing the way he did and helping us get where we are today," Rivera, who had previously worked with Heinicke at the Carolina Panthers, told the media.

There may be alternative options elsewhere too, considering plenty will have seen what Heinicke produced against the Bucs. At the very least, he profiles as a solid back-up in a sport where they are coveted – teams are willing to pay to have a reliable understudy waiting in the wings.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm happy that coaches believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Hopefully I can do it again next year," Heinicke said.

"I want to be in the NFL, I want to keep playing ball. It's a dream of mine and [I will] keep working towards it."

Heinicke should get his wish to keep playing, whether that be in Washington again or somewhere else.

Tom Brady wants the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to show a greater killer instinct after missing chances in their road win at the Washington Football Team.

The Bucs won their first postseason match since the 2002 campaign on Saturday, beating Washington 31-23 in their first playoff game in 14 years.

Brady threw for 381 yards and recorded his 75th career postseason touchdown after setting up Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

The 43-year-old, now the oldest player in history to throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff match, dropped deeper to pick his targets and frustrate a Washington pass rush that recorded 47 sacks in the regular season.

Brady, who led the regular-season standings for downfield passes of 20 yards or more, threw for two touchdowns over the same distance in a postseason game for the first time in his remarkable career.

Still, he was frustrated at certain missed opportunities, notably when he was sacked by Daron Payne and when Godwin made three drops, which allowed Washington nine unanswered points in a third quarter that threatened to derail the Bucs' endeavours.

"We hit some big plays, made some chunks," Brady said. "I think just not scoring enough in the red [zone] was probably the thing that bothers us, [we] missed a two-point play, had other opportunities to score but just didn't quite take advantage of it.

"We moved the ball okay. I think we had decent yardage. But at the end of the day, it comes down to points, and we've got to do a better job scoring more points - and we'll work on that next week."

Brady was full of praise for wide receiver Mike Evans, who recorded a team-high six catches on 10 targets for 119 receiving yards, all after recovering from a hyperextended knee in Week 17.

"Mike played his butt off," Brady said. "He got hurt last week. We weren't sure if he was going to go or not. [He] just did an incredible job fighting through it and made a bunch of big plays when we needed it."

The match mostly belonged to Brady, though, the six-time Super Bowl winner making history as he became the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs, overtaking George Blanda in the 1970 AFC Championship game.

"Come on, that's Tom Brady," said team-mate Leonard Fournette said. "I haven't got to think too much about that. That's the boy. We've got faith in him. We're going to protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw. That's our job."

Tom Brady posted a vintage post-season performance as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held off the Washington Football Team, 31-23, in the Wild Card round to advance in the NFL playoffs.

The 43-year-old showed his class at FedExField and clinched his 31st post-season victory, his first for the fifth-seed Bucs, while throwing for 381 yards and recording his 75th career post-season touchdown with scoring passes to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

Led by rookie revelation Chase Young, Washington’s defense kept the NFC East champions in contention and stand-in quarterback Taylor Heinicke led an impressive comeback attempt but was unable to force Ron Rivera’s side back into the Wild Card contest.

Brady, 43, became the oldest player to throw a pass in an NFL playoff game as he led the Bucs on a 55-yard opening drive for a field goal before Heinicke, replacing starter Alex Smith who was sidelined with a calf injury, raced into Tampa Bay territory but his tipped pass ended up in the hands of Sean Murphy-Bunting for an interception.

Ex-Patriots signal caller, Brady, took advantage of the strong field position to find wide receiver Brown with a 36-yard play-action pass to extend the lead to nine, as kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was blocked.

Alex Smith has been ruled out of the Washington Football Team's playoff clash with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning Taylor Heinicke will start at quarterback in the NFC wildcard game.

Veteran campaigner Smith was listed as questionable due to a calf injury coming into the Super Wild Card Weekend, and Washington have now confirmed the 36-year-old will be inactive.

Smith dislodged second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the 2020 campaign and has amassed 1,582 passing yards for six touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

With Haskins having been released in December, Heinicke was promoted to second choice, and the sixth-year quarterback performed impressively during an appearance from the bench in Week 16, albeit he could not help Washington avoid a defeat to the Carolina Panthers.

Washington have not won a playoff game since the 2005 campaign. However, it was the Bucs who they prevailed over on that occasion.

On his second career start, Heinicke will be going up against the NFL's oldest player in Tom Brady, who has enjoyed a brilliant season with Tampa.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady threw for 40 touchdowns in the regular season, with the 43-year-old joining Peyton Manning as the only players in league history with 40-plus TD passes in a single year with multiple teams.

Only Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers (three) has had more seasons with 40-plus TD passes than Brady's two.

Tampa have also been boosted by confirmation that wide-receiver Mike Evans, who suffered a knee injury in a Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, is fit to play.

The Washington Football Team may not be the biggest underdog of the Wild Card round - the oddsmakers have bestowed that ignominy on the Chicago Bears - but you would be hard-pressed to find many backing the NFC East champions to prevail at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.

Washington's playoff run was the one nobody expected. A division winner at 7-9, Washington turned things around after going 2-7 through the first nine games.

It is the kind of postseason push that, in 2020, could only have happened in the dismal NFC East.

And it may have ended in disappointment had Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson not controversially benched Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld during the Week 17 finale.

Despite being blessed with a young and fearsome defense, Washington's fairytale run is expected to come to an end at the hands of Tom Brady and the surging Buccaneers, who finished the season 11-5 following a four-game winning streak.

But what is the avenue to Washington subverting those expectations and condemning Brady to a second successive Wild Card round exit?

Here we examine the matchup and the numbers to assess how Washington can pull off a huge upset.

Get Gibson going, or get the ball out quick

Washington have relied predominantly on the pass in 2020 but arguably their most dynamic player on offense has been rookie running back Antonio Gibson.

Gibson's 11 rushing touchdowns in the regular season are the second-most by a rookie in franchise history.

Only two rookies, Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson, had a larger number of rushes of 10 yards or more than the 21 Gibson racked up during the regular season.

Quarterback Alex Smith, improbably in the mix to contest a playoff game just over two years on from a life-threatening leg injury, was pressured on 30.3 per cent of his dropbacks during eight regular-season games, the second-highest rate in the NFL.

With the Bucs pressuring quarterbacks at the second-highest rate in the NFL (27%), the wise play might be for Washington to lean on Gibson and the run game.

Yet the Bucs' defense is, by yards per game, the best in the league at defending the run having given up an average of 80.6 rushing yards this campaign.

If Washington cannot get things going with Gibson, the onus will be on Smith or his potential replacement Taylor Heinicke to get the ball out quickly to negate the pass rush.

Smith, whose team-high six passing touchdowns are the lowest tally for the leader of a playoff team since Jim McMahon in 1986, ranked 13th in the league in time to throw, which measures the average duration between the snap of the ball and a pass attempt, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats.

Either Smith or Heinicke may have to expedite that to prosper against the Tampa Bay defense, though they will need to do so while averaging a significantly higher number of completed air yards per pass attempt than the former's 2.5, which puts him second last in the league, ahead of only recently released team-mate Dwayne Haskins (2.4).

Setting things in motion

Finding a way to prevent the Buccaneers' defense from attacking downhill and wrecking Washington's gameplan is imperative for their potential success.

One way in which they may look to do that is through the use of backfield motion before the snap to get the defense flowing horizontally.

Just four teams employed motion on more plays during the regular season than Washington, who utilised it on 505 offensive snaps.

Washington's success on those plays was limited as they averaged just 4.69 yards on plays featuring motion. The Pittsburgh Steelers (4.15) and Philadelphia Eagles (4.27) were the two teams to perform worse in that regard.

Yet there is hope they could have success with motion against the Buccaneers, who ranked 18th in NFL in defending plays using motion, against which they gave up 5.51 yards per play.

If Washington's inefficient offense cannot find a way to move the ball on Tampa Bay, they will have to what they have done all season: lean on the defense, which will look to ruin Brady's day and carry them to victory.

Will Young meet old?

Should 43-year-old Brady meet 36-year-old Smith, they will have the oldest combined age of two starting quarterbacks in a playoff game in NFL history (80 years and 41 days).

Many believed Brady to be nearing the end of his legendary career after his time with the New England Patriots ended with a Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans.

However, he threw for 40 touchdowns in the regular season, becoming the first quarterback to reach that tally in his first season with a new team.

He has benefited, though, from excellent protection, having been pressured on just 17.2 per cent of his dropbacks.

If Washington can pressure Brady, they can turn him into a vastly different quarterback.

When pressured, Brady has completed just 52.3 per cent of his passes for 1,095 yards for five touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 66.8.

Those numbers should greatly excite a Washington pass rush led by Chase Young, who in 2020 became the first rookie to have at least 7.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and three opponent fumble recoveries in a season since Terrell Suggs in 2003. 

Washington's pressure rate of 25.4 per cent is the seven-highest in the league and consistently helped them stymie opposing offenses, who have scored on 31.4 per cent of drives against them, the fourth-lowest rate in the league.

The path for Washington surrounds consistently getting the Tampa Bay defense working sideline to sideline while their own wreaks havoc against Brady. The problem is that their performance this season suggests one of those tasks will be significantly harder than the other.

Despite getting under way in the middle of a pandemic, the NFL was able to complete its full regular season schedule. 

The drama is set to step up a gear as the postseason arrives this weekend, with only the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers securing a first-round bye. 

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski will be absent when the Browns make their first playoff appearance since 2002 having tested positive for COVID-19. The Pittsburgh Steelers are their opponents. 

The Los Angeles Rams have concerns over the fitness of Jared Goff – one of the many injury worries affecting those teams still left standing – ahead of their encounter with the Seattle Seahawks, while the Buffalo Bills will be aiming for a first postseason win since 1995 when they go up against the Indianapolis Colts.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills – Saturday, 1.05pm (all times Eastern)

- The Colts claimed the third AFC Wild Card spot with an 11-5 record, the most wins for the franchise since 2014. Indianapolis have held opponents under 100 rush yards in each of their past five games – including playoffs, they have not done so in six straight since a seven-game run from October 27 to December 7, 1968. 

- The Bills claimed their first division title since 1995 and won 13 games this season, their best record since 1991. However, Buffalo are still seeking their first playoff win since the 1995 Wild Card round – their 24-season drought is the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind the Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons, including 2020) and Detroit Lions (29 seasons, including 2020).

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, 4.40pm

- Making his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals last week, backup quarterback John Wolford finished with 231 passing yards and 56 rushing yards, both game-highs. The 56 rushing yards were the most by a Rams QB since Roman Gabriel had 57 in Week 6, 1967.

- In the first eight games of the season, Russell Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards and threw 28 touchdown passes, but in the last eight games, those numbers were just 208.9 and 12. However, Seattle went 6-2 in both sections of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team – Saturday, 8.15pm

- After starting the year 2-7, Washington finished on a 5-2 run to clinch their first division title since 2015. Washington's last playoff win came in the 2005 Wild Card Round against Tampa Bay - they are 0-4 since then. This season, they reached 30 points just once. 

- The Bucs have attempted 22 pass plays of at least 40 air yards this season, three more than any other team in the league, and its eight completions also lead the league. Washington have attempted just two such passes, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest, and is one of two teams (also Cincinnati) without a completion.

SUNDAY'S GAMES

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans – Sunday, 1.05pm

- The Titans have won three of the past four meetings with the Ravens, including a 30-24 overtime victory in Week 11 this season and a 28-12 win in last season's Divisional playoff. This will mark the fifth postseason meeting between the teams – they have split the previous four 2-2 with the visiting team winning each game.

- Tennessee won the AFC South for the first time since 2008, when they fell to the Ravens 13-10 in the Divisional playoff. The Titans scored at least 40 points five times this season, including in Week 17 against the Houston Texans, the most in the NFL this season and one shy of the all-time record (last set by the 2018 Saints).

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, 4.40pm

- In his past six games, David Montgomery has averaged 99.7 rushing yards per game, and has seven rushing touchdowns. In his first nine games, he averaged just 52.4 yards per game and had one touchdown. His highest yardage total in that span came against New Orleans in Week 8 (89 yards).

- The Saints have lost each of their past two playoff games in overtime (against the Minnesota Vikings last season, and the Rams in 2018). No team has ever played three straight overtime playoff games – the Saints beat the Bears in overtime in Chicago in Week 8 this season.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 8.15pm

- The Browns and Steelers will meet in consecutive weeks after Cleveland pulled out a 24-22 victory at home in Week 17. This will be the teams' third meeting in the postseason and the third straight postseason game the Browns will face the Steelers – Pittsburgh won both of the previous two, most recently a 36-33 win in the 2002 Wild Card game.

- Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make his 22nd career postseason start, which would break a tie with John Elway for fifth most all-time. His 30 postseason passing touchdowns are tied for ninth most in NFL history, while his 24 career playoff interceptions are tied with Dan Marino for sixth most all-time.

Tom Brady's attention to detail has gone to another level ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' clash against the Washington Football Team, head coach Bruce Arians said.

The Buccaneers face Washington at FedExField on Saturday in their first playoff game since 2007.

With his performance against the Atlanta Falcons, Brady joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with 40-plus touchdown passes in a single season with multiple teams.

And Arians said the playoffs meant Brady had gone to another level ahead of the clash against Washington.

"It's just even more attention to detail," Arians told a news conference when asked what he had seen from Brady.

"Some things he might've let go and talked [about] on the side, he addresses immediately. Same with me.

"I don't accept anything this week at all. If it's a little bit off, if it's two yards off your reception area, you better get in the right spot."

Washington have won three of their past four meetings with the Buccaneers, most recently claiming a 16-3 victory in 2018.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make a late call on Mike Evans' fitness for their Wild Card Round game against the Washington Football Team on Saturday. 

The Bucs wide receiver hyperextended his left knee in the first quarter of the Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons and did not return. 

Evans reached 1,000 receiving yards for a seventh consecutive season since the start of his NFL career just prior to getting hurt, in the process becoming the first player to achieve the feat.

The worrying injury represented a blow to Tampa Bay ahead of their first playoff appearance since 2007. 

But head coach Bruce Arians is still holding out hope for Evans, who had 70 receptions for 1,006 yards this year, scoring a career-high 13 touchdowns. 

The 27-year-old did not participate in practice on Tuesday or Wednesday but had limited involvement on Thursday. 

"I think he's got a chance," Arians said. "He'll be a game-time decision.

"He's lived in the training room and done a great job with it, and in the meeting room, staying off his feet.

"Today's the first day he tried to do much active movement, and it was okay, hopefully. We'll see how sore he is tomorrow [on Friday]."

But the Bucs will not take any risks, as Arians added: "If he goes out there, he's healthy. We're not putting him out there to limp on one leg. So, if he's playing, he's good to go."

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith missed practice on Tuesday due to a calf injury.

Smith missed two games before returning in Sunday's 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles that saw Washington clinch the NFC East.

The QB missed practice on Tuesday, four days prior to the Wild Card Round clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Running back Antonio Gibson (toe) and wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) were also listed to miss practice.

Smith has completed 168 of 252 passes for six touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

He missed the entire 2019 season following a long road to recovery in the aftermath of a career-threatening injury to his right leg, which he suffered back in November 2018.

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

Chris Godwin paid tribute to Tom Brady after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback starred against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Brady completed 26 of 41 passes for 399 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in the Buccaneers' 44-27 victory.

The 43-year-old joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with 40-plus touchdown passes in a single season with multiple teams.

Godwin, who had 133 receiving yards and two TDs, hailed the quarterback.

"That's really dope. For a guy that is in the public spotlight so much and criticised so frequently, to still be doing it at such a high level at his age, it's so impressive," he told a news conference.

"Being able to see that every day, watching how hard he works, watching his attention to detail, I'm not surprised but it's definitely well deserved."

Only Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers (three) has had more seasons with 40-plus TD passes than Brady's two.

Asked if he expected to perform so well in his first season with the Buccaneers, Brady was full of praise for his team-mates.  

"Whatever happens for me as a quarterback is reflective of what our group does on offense," he said.

"I love playing with the guys I play with, we've got a great group of receivers, great group of tight ends, very selfless, the backs have done an incredible job and the way the offensive line is playing and protecting gives any quarterback a great opportunity.

"It's a team sport, those are great team accomplishments and just proud of all the guys for what they put in this year.

"Now we're moving into the playoffs and got a great opportunity ahead of us, we've got to go and try to take advantage of it."

The Cleveland Browns ended the NFL's longest playoff drought as they held off the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion to secure postseason football.

Needing a win to book their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Browns triumphed 24-22 in the final game of their regular season.

Joining the Browns in the playoffs are the Baltimore Ravens, who thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals 38-3 to take another of the seven available postseason spots on Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins' hopes took a blow as they succumbed to a heavy defeat to AFC East winners Buffalo Bills, while the Dallas Cowboys fell short at the final hurdle with a loss at the New York Giants, who need a favour from the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

BROWNS END 18-YEAR WAIT

After 17 seasons of being on the outside looking in, the Browns are into the playoffs thanks to a nerve-wracking victory over the Steelers enough to end a dismal run.

Cleveland had to shut down its practice facility four times over the course of the last eight days due to COVID-19 concerns but, inspired by Baker Mayfield, the Browns made it through.

Mayfield threw for 196 yards and one touchdown but led some decisive drives and sealed the victory with a first-down run at the death after Mason Rudolph had missed a two-point attempt that would have tied the game.

The Browns finish the regular season 11-5 – it is their best record since 1994, when Bill Belichick led them to their last win in a playoff game. 

Pittsburgh ultimately ended Cleveland's hopes that season, and the Steelers will be the Browns' first opponents in the playoffs next week. 

In another twist of fate, the Browns' only playoff appearance this century also came in Pittsburgh, where they lost 36-33.

JACKSON-INSPIRED RAVENS SOAR AND GIANTS ON THE BRINK

Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to top 1,000 rushing yards in successive seasons as he helped the Ravens to a massive, playoff-clinching win over the Bengals.

More records tumbled for the 2019 MVP, as the 23-year-old became the first QB to throw 46 red-zone touchdowns without an interception and takes the crown for the fastest QB to amass 30 wins.

Jackson, a former first-round pick, rushed for 97 yards on Week 17, as Baltimore won a fifth straight game with ease.

The Raves will now face the winner of the AFC South – either the Tennessee Titans or the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile, the Giants will be rooting for the Eagles to overcome the Washington Football Team later on Sunday after their win over the Cowboys put them on the brink of the postseason.

Should Philly win, the Giants will clinch the NFC East title, though a Washington win would send Ron Rivera's team through.

DOLPHINS SINK, BRADY'S BUCS CAP OFF REGULAR SEASON IN STYLE

The Dolphins' playoff chances are slim after a 56-26 defeat to the Bills, as Josh Allen and Isaiah McKenzie – who ran in three touchdowns – blew them away in Buffalo.

Allen, who is in a race for the league's MVP award, threw 224 passing yards for three touchdowns on Sunday.

The third-year QB holds single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,544), touchdowns (37) and completions (396).

Miami must now rely on the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off an unlikely win over the Indianapolis Colts to claim a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished a brilliant regular season with a 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

On his record-setting 299th start in the NFL, Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, as the six-time Super Bowl champion finished with a Tampa Bay single-season record 40.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino are the only players other than Brady with multiple seasons of at least 40 touchdown passes.

Brady also picked out three-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans with a pass, who once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa, though he then suffered a game-ending knee injury.

JEFFERSON INTO THE RECORD BOOKS

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson set a new Super Bowl-era record as he surpassed Anquan Boldin for the rookie with the most receiving yards in a season.

He is now second all-time behind Bill Groman, who holds a rookie record of 1,473 receiving yards, which he set in 1960.

Jefferson also set a Vikings franchise rookie record when he caught a 15-yard pass in the third quarter of a 37-35 win over the Detroit Lions, who will finish no lower than seventh in the current draft order.

 

Week 17 results (part one)

Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons

 

Mike Evans once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa Bay – but his involvement against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was cut short by a worrying knee injury. 

Evans went into the Week 17 game on the brink of NFL history, as he was in sight of becoming the first receiver to have seven straight seasons with 1,000 yards to start a career. 

The three-time Pro Bowler duly reached the milestone in the first quarter on Sunday when reeling in a 20-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady. 

However, on the next play, Evans was hurt trying to score a touchdown. In pain having over-extended his left leg, he was taken to the team's locker room on a cart. 

Tampa Bay later confirmed the receiver would not be returning, with his health now a huge concern for the franchise ahead of the playoffs. 

The Bucs have already qualified for the postseason but will finish behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South – they are yet to discover who they will face in the opening round. 

Brady, meanwhile, also achieved a notable landmark, his 299th start in the NFL moving him out of a tie with Brett Favre for the most by a quarterback. 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.